An Approach to Writing Scripture Songs

Featuring Jennie Riddle Posted on May 14, 2008

1.) Write Contextually
When possible, I like to take large passages and themes of Scripture and write it on the heart of the Bride so that She owns it in its context.  So often we only memorize Scripture in snippets.  As songwriters we have an awesome privilege and responsibility to help ready Her for Her Beloved.  His word will change, shape, mature, grow, wash and purify like nothing else will.  Scripture clears Her eyes to see and Her heart to understand.  Therefore, with everything in my I try to feed Her His word in plentiful portions.  When She carries His words in Her heart and consequently on Her mouth, She speaks them over the earth on His behalf, and order and rightness come.  Darkness flees.  Nations are subdued. Freedom occurs.  

2.) Write Prophetically
Simply stated, apply the appropriate scripture for the appointed occasion at the appointed time, similar to a doctor administering just the right medicine at just the right time for the presenting ailment.  Scripture is relevant.  I can't think of anything more culturally relevant than scripture when it is prophetically delivered.  Again, a timely word from the King delivered by His Bride, carries all the authority of heaven behind it.  It is powerful to move mountains, shake kingdoms, and heal the land. (Proverbs 15:23) "A word spoken in due season, how good it is!"

3.) Write Accurately
In order to be accurate, we must combine both contextual and prophetic understanding in order to extract from the Scriptures the message on God's heart.   Careful at all times to remain true to the text, we, as writers, must make choices in terms of the "voice" we will take on (translations of the bible each have their very own 'voice'), the words or phrases that are eliminated, and the word and phrase substitutions that will be made in order to bring forward the message of the hour in a clear and in focus way.

4.) Write Poetically
Scripture is beautiful.  It is eloquent.  When writing, I made the decision long ago to write lyrics in a way that will read as poetry and stand-alone. I do it very purposefully.  When lyrics have access to both ears and eyes, the opportunity for effectiveness doubles. It is my ambition to release Truth in every form that I am able.  As writers, when lyrics can stand alone, we have further enhanced the chances of TRUTH being released and received. 

Example of a song constructed from a large passage of scripture.

Below, I will share lyrics with you that are based off the entire passage of Isaiah 35.  This passage is from the prophet Isaiah and is prophetic also because it is a timely word to the Bride and to the World. To help analyze, I am providing the entire chapter from the Message Bible by Eugene Phillips.   As you study the below passage with the lyrics, please take note of what words and lines were omitted, what meaning was extracted, the theme of the chorus as the passage in context is analyzed, etc.  I had several choices to make as I approached writing this scripture song.

1.) Form and approach for communication

You will see, that I made the choice for 3 verses, as it is a lengthy text.  The chorus is simple and short and can double as an anthem once produced.  It summarizes the passage.  The bridge includes the final necessary information.  I chose to use the bridge in this instance to address the hearing heart in a direct way. 

2.) Voice and clarity of message
The other choice I needed to make was the "voice" I would take on as the writer.  I made the decision to remain rather old English, as it seemed to accompany the message of the text so beautifully.  Realizing that it is not currently popular to write in such a fashion, I wrestled with the idea for about thirty seconds, and made the decision to do it anyway.  The message seemed to come alive with the eloquence of old English.

I post this for you today, recognizing that it is not a vertical worship song, but is a relevant teaching tool when it comes to the topic of handling scripture. This song was crafted for both the ears and the mouth of the Bride.   First for Her ears, as the Holy Spirit will perform His words over Her, and then for Her mouth, as She declares them out over the earth.   Is 35 is a declaration and announcement of such Good News.  If you have ever read, "The Chronicles of Narnia", by C.S. Lewis, then you will understand the heart of this writer.  When Aslan came to Narnia, the snow melted, the stone people turned back to flesh, life happened everywhere.   That is the announcement of Isaiah 35.  Jesus Has Come To Make Things Right!   In the text, "rightness" is futuristic... The usage of the word "will" keeps us waiting for one day, some day, but not now.  In Jesus, because He came, died, rose again and LIVES, that day is here and now!  So I made the choice to use right now language, because He IS right now!  

The song is entitled "COME TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT (Isaiah 35)" is a simple piano/vocal demo was recorded by my friend, Crystal Yates.  

Isaiah 35 (The Message)  
copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
   a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
   Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
God's resplendent glory, fully on display.
   God awesome, God majestic.

Energize the limp hands,
   strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
   "Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
   on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
   He's on his way! He'll save you!"

Blind eyes will be opened,
   deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
   the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
   streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
   thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
   and barren grasslands flourish richly.

There will be a highway
   called the Holy Road.
No one rude or rebellious
   is permitted on this road.
It's for God's people exclusively—
   impossible to get lost on this road.
   Not even fools can get lost on it.
No lions on this road,
   no dangerous wild animals—

Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
   Only the redeemed will walk on it.
The people God has ransomed
   will come back on this road.

They'll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
   unfading halos of joy encircling their heads,
Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness
   as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

By Jennie Riddle 2008

come to make things right final.mp3

  Bb                        F 

God awesome! God Majestic


Come to make things right

       Bb                        F 

God awesome! God Majestic


Come to make things right

C                                    Dm7

Wilderness and desert, rejoice! The drought is over...

F                              Gsus              G

Barren land arise! Celebrate and flower!

C/E                                              F

    Break forth, O symphony of sound and gladsome color..

Am                         Am/G                            F2                           C      F/A   C/E   F

Laugh aloud, you healing streams and crystal founts of living water

C                                         Dm7

Clap you weary hands and leap you feeble knees!

F                                                Gsus               G

Voiceless ones, lift melodies! Prophesy and sing!

C/E                                       F                       

Eyes, be filled to see reality from heaven’s vantage

Am                            Am/G                       F                                      F

Ears, be cleared to hear the tongues of men from every language

              D/F#                              F

See the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God,

         C                               G

His excellence, fully on display

Dm9                                  Am7

Fearful hearts be strong, God will surely come...

             F                             Gsus     G       F          C2(no3RD)/Eb   Abmaj7

Watch Sorrow and Sighing flee away,    flee away,                         flee away

           C                                                    Dm7

The righteous walk the holy road called, "Highway for Redeemed"

F                                                    Gsus                 G

just for sons and daughters who love their Daddy King.

          C                                                      Dm7

No crooked way does this road take... no crooked man shall walk it...


The Ransomed will sing Her way Home,

Gsus         G                   C

all the way Home to heaven...